Panama and Latin Policy

October 24, 1975

Report Outline
Debate Over New Canal Zone Treate
Origins of Panama Canal Controversy
Implications of Policy Toward Panama
Special Focus

Debate Over New Canal Zone Treate

Panama Canal as Overriding Hemispheric Issue

For years latin America has been a soporific to the American body politic. Candidates searching for viable issues in U.S. relations with the nations to the south have come up perennially empty-handed. Not since the early 1960s, when the Bay of Pigs invasion and the Cuban missile crisis stirred wide concern, has there been any substantial interest within the United States in Latin American affairs. “Americans,” James Reston of The New York Times once remarked, “will do anything for Latin America, except read about it.”

That situation may change as the United States moves into the 1976 presidential campaign. The Ford administration is faced with a number of potentially explosive problems in Latin America, any one of which could be seized upon by opposition politicians as a campaign issue. Included among them are Cuba's bid to end the U.S. trade embargo, charges of Central Intelligence Agency (cia) subversion of Latin American governments, control of the international drug traffic, illegal immigration into this country, treatment of multinational corporations, trade, energy and Latin America's new-found solidarity with the Third World of developing nations in Asia and Africa.

Far overshadowing any of these, however, are the delicate and volatile negotiations on the future status of the Panama Canal. Panamanians view the U.S. presence in the Canal Zone as an anachronism and an insult to their national dignity. Latin American governments are virtually unanimous in their support of the Panamanian position. In the United States, however, a substantial portion of the population and influential members of Congress are adamant in their opposition to any American withdrawal from control of the strategic waterway.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Nov. 26, 1999  Panama Canal
Oct. 24, 1975  Panama and Latin Policy
Feb. 26, 1964  Panama Settlement
Puerto Rico and other Territories
Regional Political Affairs: Latin America and the Caribbean
Waterways and Harbors